Saturday, July 13, 2013

"The Sixth Soul" by Mark Roberts

Detective Chief Inspector David Rosen is the head of the team dedicated to tracking down a serial killer dubbed "Herod". He likes to abduct pregnant women, and then remove the foetus and dump the body. When another woman is abducted, the pressure mounts.

Rosen is contacted by Father Sebastian Flint, who believes that the current killer is recreating the murders of Alessio Capaneus, who believed that he could revive Satan through gathering the souls of six "untainted" people - i.e an unborn foetus. The latest woman abducted is the fifth, which means that the killer is getting closer to obtaining his goal.

Flint refers to a document known as the "anti-bible", which could provide a solution to the slayings. But just how much does he know and how involved is he? And should Rosen worry about the fact that his wife Sarah has just discovered that she is pregnant?

I don't think there was an original thought, let alone an original sentence, to be found within the pages of "The Sixth Soul", but surprisingly it doesn't mean you should avoid the novel. Events move at a decent pace, and it doesn't suffer the long, drawn-out, waiting-for-lab-results issues that affect most crime novels, or police procedures.

Most notably, this is highly clichéd. The lead detective has a tortured past and a wife/girlfriend who just happens to fit into the killer's modus operandi. He has a boss who seems to want his head. He has an underling who desperately wants to undermine him. So there are a lot of police-force politics as this winds its way to the solution.

 But I did enjoy the novel. Despite its drawbacks, it was tightly-plotted, well-paced and drew me in. If it weren't so bogged down by clichés, it could have been a real winner.

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